….not. As you know, Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency released another video in her Tropes vs. Women in Video games series this week. While it has been met with surprising support from various celebrities, the backlash to the current video has prompted Anita Sarkeesian to speak out about the threats she is facing because of it.
On August 27th, Sarkeesian posted the following:
Some very scary threats have just been made against me and my family. Contacting authorities now.
— Feminist Frequency (@femfreq) August 27, 2014
An hour or so later she posted the she was safe, the authorities had been notified, and she would be spending the night with friends just to ensure her continued safety. So people on the internet (I’m mostly going to assume men here) feel so threatened by Sarkeesian’s video series that they force her into physical hiding?
My mind just wants to explode. Attempting to harass someone into silence is not the technique of a group that genuinely wants to have dialogue and prove their points by civilized means. Using scare tactics, doxxing, and physical threats to silence someone is for one illegal, and two terrorist/guerilla tactics.
Sarkeesian further went to share some of the harassment she receives on a normal day.
This is basically my worst nightmare, and why we’re not seeing many other lady games critics stepping up to be the next Anita Sarkeesian. Sadly, this might also be par for the course for many female journalists, in gaming and other categories.
The Huffington Post reports that a new study by think tank Demo found that famous or well-known men receive more negative messages on twitter than their female counterparts, in every category except one. Guess which one? Journalism.
More than 5 percent of all Twitter messages sent to female journalists are unfavorable, according to the study. In every other category of distinguished females, however, the number is much lower, at 1 in every 70 tweets.
It’s not just on twitter. Jezebel recently reported that they had been subject to large levels of harassment by individuals creating burner accounts to leave comments of a violent pornographic nature on various articles. While Jezebel’s parent company, Gawker, has made moves to address the situation, the fact that women and women-centered websites are subject to this sort of attack is horrifying in and of itself.
Adding the word games to lady journalist seems to compound this problem. Women in the gaming community have been subject to gross amounts of sexism over the years, from everyday lady gamers, to professional players, and even the devs themselves. Briannu Wu, the head of a gaming development studio recently shared some of her, and her other women’s harassment experiences in the gaming industry.
My name is Brianna Wu. I lead a development studio that makes games. Sometimes, I write about issues in the games industry that relate to the equality of women. My reward is that I regularly have men threatening to rape and commit acts of violence against me.
According to the article, Wu has not been out to her car alone since January, due to the fear inspired by random harassers. For female games journalists, the experience is similar, as people around the internet attempt to cow them from speaking their minds and sharing new perspectives. One only has to look briefly at the comments on articles by female games journalists to get the picture.
Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to find a female games journalist in the first place if you aren’t already entrenched in the community. I can only name three female journalists that work for major gaming publications off the top of my head (Patricia Hernandez for Kotaku, Danielle Riendeau for Polygon, and Cara Ellison for Rock, Paper, Shotgun), which makes them easier to single out for hatred of a large magnitude.
You don’t have to search for long to find images like this from users on Tumblr, Reddit, or 4chan:
I personally get a little freaked out when I receive the odd comment or two telling me to “eat shit”. I can’t imagine being afraid to Google my own name, for fear of seeing images and threats of this nature. Let’s be clear: this is not okay. Nor is it productive.
Sure, perhaps there are women who will think twice about getting involved in the gaming community. Sometimes I sit at home and think to myself, “Man, I need to get new hobbies where people won’t harass me”. But that shouldn’t be my problem, that shouldn’t be a female game dev’s or female games journalist’s problem. The problem, sadly, is with a small minority of the community itself, who is not content to let anyone attempt to change their rigid definition of what gaming is.
Guys: we’re not coming for your games. We just want to make the community a better place for everyone – you included. Driving Anita Sarkeesian into hiding, hacking Zoe Quinn’s Skype account, and all the other various and sadly mundane forms of harassment that are perpetrated against women in gaming only proves how much harder we need to work. We might be afraid (I am), but your attacks only help others realize how much things need to change.
When Anita Sarkeesian released the Tropes vs. Women in Video Games Kickstarter in summer of 2012, she most likely had no idea that she was about to start the misogynist storm of the century. However, she valiantly martyred herself for women in gaming, and brought attention to some serious problems women face when trying to participate in the gaming subculture.
In the two years following the horrible personal attacks on Sarkeesian’s series, issues surrounding women in gaming have become more prominent in the gaming community. Where once they were only spoken of in hushed whispers among friends, now many gaming journalism websites regularly post features on women, and even call out companies that think women are too hard to animate.
A more noticeable shift in this conversation has come about with the release of the latest Feminist Frequency video, Women as Background Decoration: Part 2.While there has been the usual rabble around the internet decrying the current video, for the first time two major personalities – one specifically in gaming culture and one in popular culture at large – have spoken out in defense of these videos.
Tim Schafer, the founder of Double Fine Studios and creator of gaming favorites such as Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, and more recently Broken Age, shared the video on twitter, emphasizing that it was a must-watch for all video game professionals.
I think everyone who makes games should watch this video from start to finish. http://t.co/5W56lFNVp2
— TimOfLegend (@TimOfLegend) August 26, 2014
Then, out of nowhere, the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer himself stepped into the arena sharing the following thoughts.
While there have always been men and women within the game industry who have supported Sarkeesian’s project, it feels like the first time a game developer not already aligned with a feminist gaming movement has stepped forward on her behalf.Joss Whedon’s input is not particularly surprising, but support of the video will be felt not only in the gaming community, but in larger geek-culture as well.
This follow’s Sarkeesian’s winning of the 2014 Game Developers Choice Ambassador Award, which honors an individual who have helped the game industry advance to a better place. It may have taken over two years and thousands of trolls for the Feminist Frequency videos to get the support that they deserve, but it’s great to see large names in the industry publicly admiring her work now.
So today on “Would You Rather” I will be looking at two women who have made some large contributions to the geek world in different ways. I realize that my past few posts have been a smidgen on the serious side, so today I’m letting my inner fan-girl out and I’m look at two of my female role-models/idols: Felicia Day (left) and Anita Sarkeesian (right).
Naturally, one of your first concerns is probably: who would win in a fight? This is a difficult question to answer because both Felcia Day and Anita Sarkeesian have proven themselves to be valiant warriors against hordes of internet trolls. To determine their overall effectiveness in battle, let’s briefly look at various techniques employed in their most recent battles.
Felicia Day, actress, writer, and one of the masterminds behind Geek and Sundry (“an internet community centered around web videos dealing with comics, games, books, and hobbies) has recently been under attack by ex-Destructoid writer Ryan Perez, and by anonymous internet trolls over the music video “Gamer Girl and Country Boy“. In the case of the YouTube video, most of the negative comments have currently been deleted by mods, or down-voted so many times they aren’t displayed. However, if you look hard enough you can find comments like this, which perhaps gives you a general idea of what Felicia was up against:
back to Felecia, sometimes you can turn down a job, even for a friend.
no good came from this.
it was so bad, and your make-up is terrible.
The yellow shit on your eyes especially made you look like a ghoul, and you totally ruined those tetris pants.
I saw the girl in the ad for those i thought the pants looked pretty hot, but you taught me that the pants really look retarded,and that the other girl was just hot.
whoever did hair,make-up,and wardrobe on this video deserves stomach cancer.
Ah, the good old stomach cancer comments. Other comments were more in this vein:
Felecia can’t even sing, she cant really do much of anything…but i respect the way she puts on the whole geek act to corner the female nerd market and also get paid selling autographs and shit to losers at game and comic cons… everyone needs to get paid and her plan has worked nicely.
Felicia’s way of handling it? Introspective maturity, and letting mods be mods. In her blog post in response to the flaming of her video (the comments I quoted are some of the only negative ones still up, it appears the worst of these were quickly struck down), Felicia Day thanks her fans for sticking up for her, and carefully considers why she feels like the video sparked controversy:
Clearly a segment of guys on the internet HATE “Gamer Girls”. This is the part I don’t understand, why they are so frikkin emotional about it. They hate on this type of girl who “pretends” to game for attention. This archetype they can somehow factually attribute to a few women (then paint the whole gender with the brush) that exploit them for attention, cheapens their hobby with “casualism”…who knows. The irony here is that the “Hot Gamer Girl” is there because….guys click on them/watch them more than non-hot girls. So yeah, talk about creating their own problem, lol.
She calmly addresses the problem, tries to legitimately understand why it happened, and moves on, head held high, relatively unscathed from a horde of negativity. Unfortunately, anonymous trolls are not the only ones that have recently attacked Day for (in their eyes) being a “glorified booth babe.” Ryan Perez, formally of Destructoid recently posted on twitter at Felicia Day:
@feliciaday, Question: Do you matter at all? Do you even provide anything useful to gaming besides “personality”?
This article from Jezebel covers most of the controversy. Clearly, Perez is unfamiliar with the bulk of Day’s work, which has contributed both to gaming culture in the from of The Guild but also to actual video game content like the “Mark of the Assassin” DLC for Dragon Age II. So what was Day’s response to this outrage? A gracious acceptance of an apology after her fans (and BFF Whil Wheaton) defended her and Perez was fired. Felicia Day’s battle strategy could be best described as turning the other cheek, and being the better (wo)man. Unless you say she’s not a gamer. Watch this amazing video for Whil Wheaton’s advice on how to respond to trolls, and Felicia Day’s defense of herself as gamer:
So, clearly Felicia qualifies as a troll vanquisher, even though she typically employs non-violent means. Anita Sarkeesian., though still nonviolent, can best be understood as constant crusader against trolls, in the media and on the internet. Sarkeesian’s series of videos “Tropes vs. Women” look at various tropes that many popular culture texts share and perpetuate. These well-researched videos have helped illuminate misogyny in popular culture for many people. The videos are frequently used in classrooms across the country to introduce good media criticism to beginners in the field.
While the “Tropes vs. Women” series has had the occasional troll comment, this did not prepare Sarkeesian for the response that she was greeted with when she announced a new project “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games. Here’s the intro video to the series:
Hardly the most offensive video out on the internet, yet this short video inspired attacks on her Kickstarter, attacks on the Feminist Frequency website, and an online game where players got to beat up Anita Sarkeesian. Not exactly a rational response to a woman that j wants to point out a few stereotype in gaming. Sarkeesian’s response has been to continue the project, with the help of over $160,000 that her Kickstarter raised. With the help of fans and other concerned people, Sarkeesian’s videos will come out in the near future with a bonus set on trolls on the internet. So not only did the trolls fail to take down her Kickstarter, Website, and Videos, they only fueled Sarkeesian to make more videos, this time (unlike the initial proposed project) specifically to look at trolls. Considering the success of Sarkeesian’s previous videos, I honestly can’t wait to see her counter-assault (video) on troll culture.
So, which of these women would win in a fight? For once I’m going to say it doesn’t matter. In culture women are often pitted each other in the whole ‘divide and conquer’ tactic. I can’t imagine a world where either of these women would fight each other, and I’d much rather celebrate both of their careers and troll-handling skills. I might be tempted to fight Felicia Day for her awesome yellow chair, or Anita Sarkeesian for her successful website and video series, but ultimately I’d rather hold them up as role-models to emulate as I begin my entrance into cyberspace.